Pumpkin Pasta Penne

Pumpkin Pasta Recipe Video – scroll down for recipe card

I came up with this recipe to serve our friend Diane who graciously and generously offered to edit the newest version of Learn to Cook with her cruelly capable eagle eyes. In true ladylike form, she has also not made me cry at all or told me my book is dumb and should be burned. Of course, she is not quite yet finished, but I’m pretty sure she at least doesn’t hate it at this point.

Anyways, she came over for dinner and knowing that she’s a “mostly vegetarian” and also an adventurous eater, I took a chance and made up this pasta dish that very night. It turned out great and everyone loved it and then I got a medal and a free trip to France.

If you want to add meat to this dish, I think a half pound of Italian sausage, crumbled and fried until crisp, would be a durned good addition.

Pumpkin Pasta Recipe


Pumpkin Penne Pasta

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5 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Hilah Johnson
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound fresh pumpkin
  • 1/2 pound penne pasta (or any short pasta: rigatoni, rotini)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup vermouth, white wine, or broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup torn arugula or baby spinach


  1. Heat a large skillet over high heat with the olive oil. Add the onions and bay leaf and reduce the heat to low. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cover skillet and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring once at the halfway point.
  2. While the onions caramelize, cook your pumpkin. Using a sharp knife and stabilizing it with a damp towel underneath if you like, cut the pumpkin into wedges. Put on a plate, cut side up, and microwave about 5 minutes until soft. Allow to cool.
  3. Set a large pot of water to boil for your pasta while your pumpkin cools and the onions continue to cook.
  4. When the onions are nicely caramelized, add the garlic, herbs and vermouth and stir.
  5. Peel the pumpkin and cut into 1″ chunks. You will have about 2 cups of chunks. Add them the the onion mixture and sprinkle with the salt. Allow to simmer uncovered until the pasta is cooked.
  6. BEFORE you drain your pasta, reserve a cup of the cooking liquid; just dip it out of the pot with a measuring cup and set aside.
  7. Drain your pasta and add it to the pumpkin/onion mixture along with 3/4 cup of the pasta water.
  8. Add in the Parmesan and stir. Add the cream if using.
  9. Allow to cook, stirring, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the sauce is thick and clings to the pasta.
  10. Serve with toasted walnuts and fresh greens tossed in at the last minute.

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  1. Great Stone Face on November 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    A delicious-looking recipe. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m interested in you sautรฉing the bay leaf with the onions when you caramelize them — very innovative. Does it make the dish earthier?

    • Hilah on November 7, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Yeah, the bay leaf gets a little toasty in there with the onions and infuses the oil with flavor. I think it brings out the bay more this way. Hope y’all try this one!

  2. Tisha Townsend on November 7, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Hilah, I made this for dinner tonight, it’s so good! I accidently forgot to save some pasta water, so I subbed a little extra wine. Also, the store I went to didn’t have pumpkin, so I got a butternut squash, and it’s delish! I also found a mixture of arugala and spinach, hard to find arugala alone this time of year. It’s such good comfort food, but healthy style. Yum and thanks!

    • Hilah on November 8, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Great tip, Tisha! I often forget to reserve the pasta water, too. If I ever think of a mental trick to remembering that, I’ll be sure to share. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m glad you liked it; you’re right about it being comfort food while still being pretty healthy.

  3. Steve Ramsey on November 8, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I made this last night. I think this is one of your best, Hilah. I used toasted almonds instead of walnuts and they were delicious. I think adding nuts is critical!

    • Hilah on November 8, 2012 at 10:21 am

      Thank you, Steve! Almonds sound great, too. Anything to add some crunch. I’m glad y’all enjoyed it!

  4. Bob on November 8, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    The way I remember to save pasta water is by forgetting to toss it out. I usually scoop macaroni out with a wire basket/ladle thingy and leave the pot on the stove for awhile, especially in the winter, as it helps keep the heat in the house instead of down the drain.

    Anyway, quick question: I’m planning to make this as a side dish to bring to my family’s Thanksgiving gathering and was wondering if there’s anything you’d adjust when scaling the recipe up by double or triple. Thanks!

    • Tisha Townsend on November 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      That’s a great tip for saving pasta water, I’ll have to remember that one next time!

    • Hilah on November 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

      Thanks for that great idea, Bob! I bet one the water is cooled, you could even pour it on your outdoor plants and conserve that way.
      I think this recipe will easily double. Tripling it might get tricky if only because you’ll need a BIG pan.
      Also, I just thought of this, though it’s not really the answer to the question you asked, but it might help anyway: you could make two double batches, mix them all together in a large casserole, top with a little butter and parmesan and nuts and put a lid on it in the oven. That way it would stay nice and warm in case you need to hold it for a little while.

      • Jonathan on October 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm

        If you salt the water, don’t pour it on plants! If you really dilute it, there may not be any problems.

  5. Arthur in the Garden! on November 23, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Love this recipe! Great combination of herbs and flavors!

    • Hilah on November 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks, Arthur! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. chandrielle sumaoy on December 10, 2012 at 9:38 am

    this dish is so amazing! i cooked this one at home and even if i’m still 14, i can do it easily! thanks for showing it well Hilah! i’m gonna use your recipe for our cooking contest, there’s no doubt i’ll win because of this recipe! continue shining Hilah! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hilah on December 10, 2012 at 9:54 am

      That is wonderful, Chandrielle! I’m so proud of you. Have fun with the contest and keep cooking! ๐Ÿ™‚

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